In response to “Conservative, Not Racist“, I received a wonderful email from Kent Craig of Queensland, Australia, describing his continuing deep dives into received “wisdom” and what he’s brought up to the surface in that process. He kindly gave me permission to share. I think it clearly shows that one doesn’t have to have a weird childhood to be empathetic, to broadly see the world for what it is.
Thank you for sharing this, Kent!
Here is the letter in full.
You have covered and raised a lot of questions in you article Conservative, Not Racist, and many of the points you have described, I to, have been questioning of myself over the last few years, as a significant life moment offered me the time and space to start really looking into what constituted me, and your description of those deep dark waters, rings true, as there are indeed some nasty beasts lurking down there, and it can be extremely confronting to take them on, and start the hard work of trying to banish them. I emphasize TRY, as the work of exiling them, and keeping them at bay, is always ongoing, as they are aided and abetted by the culture we exist within. It may be hard work, but it is also enlightening at the same time. Racism is the only beast I will discuss in this reply, as within my psyche, I discovered that it had many close friends.
I grew up very unlike your description of your childhood. For me, a child arriving in the early seventies, white, male, traditional blue collar working class family, living in the suburbs of a small Australian town, with nearly all of my relatives (Some openly racist, in every sense of the word) living close by, my world was very small, and was totally shaped by the narrative of a colonized country. I would not have considered myself racist, and as I grew, never actively participated in direct acts of racism, however I never questioned anything about the narrative I was being taught, as unbeknown to me at the time, I had already been delivered into this world more than just a few rungs up the ladder of life, and was already receiving the privileges of a “conservative” culture.
Then, as now, I am still surrounded by openly racist comments and statements about the Indigenous Australians, and anyone who is not of direct European descent, all made by people who could be described as having conservative values. My daily exposure to these embedded prejudices is rather high, as I work in an Industry whose workforce is dominated by white males (My email signature reveals all), with a relatively low average age. The fore mentioned groups of people have company though, as the sexist comments would come close to outnumbering the racist, with females of colour inhabiting the lowest rank. Unlike then however, I actively, and directly question why? Why do you think this way? Why do you believe these people are any less than you? It can make for some interesting and lively lunch time conversations, but at least these exchanges have some meat in them, unlike the usual calorie deficient social media inspired dribble. Most answers could be grouped under one heading. LOSS. These fellow humans are going to take what I already have, or take my future opportunities of having more. The fear of losing any falsely granted entitlements can be a strong and dangerous motivator.
When the door of introspectiveness is opened, it has the ability to deliver some truly profound moments, which then slowly seep into your being. I have been fortunate to have a few of these occurrences over the last few years, with one of them being the loss of entitlement, and all the fears which are attached to this belief. When this happened, it was like a wave of relief moving through me, as the burden was removed. In that moment, I finally realized that everything my toxic culture had taught, told and sold me, was a lie, and that I was “entitled” to no more than anyone else, and above and beyond the essentials of life, everything else was a bonus for which I should be extremely grateful for, and to continue the ever-evolving process of treading lightly on the world around me, out of respect to all the others who will unfortunately never have the opportunities which I have received.
What I was born, were I was born, and the culture that I live within, I cannot single handily change, however, I can continue to question everything, and I can keep taking large breaths to go visiting those deep waters, and I can keep sharing those experiences with my children, while endeavouring to foster similar attributes in them, so that when they reach my age, there will be less diving to do.